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Court Says Law Used to Ban Recording of Police in Public Unconstitutional

Date Posted to Site: 10/04/2012

The 1st Circuit Federal Court of Appeals said that a lawyer who used his cell phone to record a video of police making a drug arrest was within his rights and that the seizure of his cell phone and his arrest by police violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights.


In answer to the question, Is there a constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public? the Court gives a resounding Yes!


The court said,


The First Amendment issue here is, as the parties frame it, fairly narrow: is there a constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public? Basic First Amendment principles, along with case law from this and other circuits, answer that question unambiguously in the affirmative. It is firmly established that the First Amendments aegis extends further than the texts proscription on laws abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, and encompasses a range of conduct related to the gathering and dissemination of information. As the Supreme Court has observed, the First Amendment goes beyond protection of the press and the self-expression of individuals to prohibit government from limiting the stock of information from which members of the public may draw. &


Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting the free discussion of governmental affairs.


It didnt matter that he is not a professional journalist with press credentials:


Moreover, changes in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw. The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.


The trial court threw the criminal prosecution out and Attorney Glik then filed this civil suit under 42 U.S.C. §1983. The suit also names the individual police officers in their individual capacity as defendants. The City and the individual police officers filed an interlocutory appeal from the trial courts ruling denying them qualified immunity from Gliks suit. The Court of Appeals affirmed holding that his arrest was without probable cause and clearly violated his Fourth Amendment rights.


The decision was rendered in Simon Glik V. City of Boston.




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